How would you explain the development of the plate tectonic theory?
A conflict between established theory, and empirical evidence, resulting in compromise.
Alfred Wegener first came up with the theory of Continental Drift in 1912 was rejected. His empirical evidence was compelling however his theory was rejected. One of the reasons was valid He had no explanation for what could move the massive continents, no mechanism.
The other reasons were no so valid scientifically. The established theory for mountain formation was the geosyncline theory. The theory of Continental Drift contradicted the geosyncline theory. Because his theory contradicted the established theory it was opposed.
Also the established theory of Darwinian evolution had a different timeline than that implied by the Theory of Continental Drift. Leaders of the Neo Darwinian Evolution Theory opposed the Theory. Waganors Theory was rejected and buried.
Then during World War II magnetic studies of the mid Atlantic ridge provided strong empirical evidence that the theory of Continental Drift was correct. The evidence of seafloor spreading in the 1940s supported the concepts of Continental Drift. Further studies of the Rift valleys provided that more proof that the Continents were moving. Convection currents in the magma of the mantle provided a mechanism for the movement of the continents.
Wegener's Theory was renamed Plate Tectonics in 1960 and gained wide support, though it was still opposed by Gaylord Simpson and other leading evolutionists.
Instead of rapid sudden plate movements, of more than 250 cm year. the theory was revised to fit the established theory of uniformtarism to slow uniform motions of less than 2.5 cm year. The timelines of both evolutionary and the spreading of the continents were adjusted to fit with each other.
The conflict between established theory and empirical evidence was finally decided in favor of empirical evidence even if it did take 50 years. It also required compromise between the new theory and the established theory.